Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - a Ratings Year in Review

As England retain the Ashes and 2010 moves into 2011 it gives us the opportunity to have a look back at the last year in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings to see who the biggest achievers have been over the last twelve months of international cricket.

For the second successive year, no batsmen managed to break the elusive 900 point barrier. Back in 2008 five different batsmen managed to sneak through, but the highest points tally in 2010 was 891 by Sachin Tendulkar in October, when he soared back to the top spot he had most recently occupied in August 2002. Tendulkar was one of four batsmen who were ranked number one at various stages of the year and it was a triumphant year for India as three of their famed top-order achieved the feat. The year dawned with Gautam Gambhir at the top, and his opening partner Virender Sehwag also enjoyed a period of time there. The only batsman to upset the Indian dominance was Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara who ended the year at number one.

The year’s highest-rated innings was played by Hashim Amla, who had a memorable 2010 in all forms of the game. His undefeated 253 against India at Nagpur helped the touring South Africans to an innings victory. Next up was Chris Gayle’s 333 against Sri Lanka at Galle in November and in third place come two Jonathan Trott innings – his 184 against Pakistan at Lord’s and his undefeated 168 against Australia at Melbourne.

With the ball, 2010 was very much the Dale Steyn show with the South African speedster holding onto the top spot he inherited from Muttiah Muralitharan in July 2009 for the entire twelve months, peaking at 897 right at the end of the year following his eight wickets against India at Durban. Graeme Swann – trying to become the first English off-spinner since Jim Laker in 1959 to rank number 1 – was Steyn’s closest challenger, peaking at 858 points in August.

England’s James Anderson passed 200 Test wickets late in the year, and he has the honour of the highest-rated performance of the year. His eleven wickets against Pakistan at Nottingham came at a cost of just 71 runs. Next up is Australia’s Jekyll-and-Hyde pace ace Mitchell Johnson, who followed up his 0-170 against England at Brisbane with nine wickets at Perth to lead the home side to a series-levelling triumph. Graeme Swann’s ten wickets at Chittagong in March round out the top three.

In the shorter for of the game, four batsman had the honour of being able to look down at the rest of the batting world. India’s captain MS Dhoni started the year at the top, and subsequently Mike Hussey, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla all enjoyed spells as number one, with Amla currently in pole position. And it is the South African’s current points tally of 854 which was the highest achieved by anyone over the course of the year – not bad for someone who only made his ODI debut in March 2008!

As in the Test arena, bowling in One Day International cricket was dominated by one man. New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori sneaked ahead of Shakib-al-Hasan in November 2009 and has not relinquished that position since, with Zimbabwe’s Ray Price the closest challenger. Vettori peaked at 768 points in March and Price’s best was 722 achieved in the West Indies series the same month.

Two all-rounders continued their form from 2009 to lead their respective tables for all twelve months of 2010. Jacques Kallis has spent more matches as the top-rated all-rounder in Test cricket than anyone else – 421 in total. He showed no signs of slowing down as he finally made his maiden Test double-century to occupy top spot for the fourth complete year on the trot. In ODI cricket, Shakib-al-Hasan continued to shine with both bat and ball and even at the tender age of just 23 has already spent a total of 278 matches in top spot – a number only surpassed by Kapil Dev, Kallis and Shaun Pollock.

Unsuprisingly, the computer saw the year’s stand-out batting performance as the top-rated effort too. In February at Gwalior, Sachin Tendulkar achieved ODI cricket’s holy grail with a double century against South Africa. Coming from just 147 deliveries, his unbeaten 200 helped set up a 153-run victory. Next was Gautam Gambhir’s unbeaten 138 against New Zealand at Jaipur in December followed by his opening partner Sehwag’s lone hand of 110 against New Zealand at Dambulla in August, when India were all out for just 223. It was more than enough as New Zealand collapsed to just 118 in reply.

With the ball, it is a Bangladeshi in the number one position performance-wise. Abdur Razzak thoroughly enjoyed the one-day series late in the year against Bangladesh and his 4-14 in a complete ten-over spell at Mirpur came out on top. Australian Ryan Harris’s year ended in pain with a stress fracture of the ankle, but he had started on fire with 5-19 on a bouncy Perth track against Pakistan in January. Another Bangladeshi is in third place as Suhrawadi Shuvo’s figures of 3-14 in his ten overs against New Zealand at mirpur in October helped inflict another embarrassing defeat on the Kiwis.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A unique time

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be anything too unusual about the current Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen. Sachin Tendulkar is at the top followed just a point behind by Kumar Sangakkara. The old favourites of Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith and VVS Laxman are also currently riding high in the batting charts.

However, at closer glance, one thing does stand out. There is not a single representative in the top ten from either England or Australia. The highest Englishman is relative newcomer Jonathan Trott, who is currently number 15 after just a year’s Test cricket. Next comes Kevin Pietersen at 23, who was a perennial fixture in the top ten for three years, peaking at number three. Pietersen leads a tight bunch of six England batsmen between positions 23 and 35 showing that there is relative strength in depth, despite the lack of a stand-out performer.

For Australia the trend is perhaps even more worrying. Their leading light is thirteenth-placed Michael Clarke, and even he has struggled of late, scoring only 35 runs in his four innings in the recent Test series in India. Ricky Ponting, who was in the world’s top ten for seven years is just behind him at number sixteen. But perhaps the biggest fall from grace has occurred to Miichael Hussey. After his 23rd Test his rating stood at 921 and he was looking down on the rest of the batting world. But his star has faded since then and his 31 subsequent Tests have brought him just three centuries and a decidedly ordinary average of 35.

So – putting it into perspective, especially with an Ashes series lurking just around the corner, how rare is this current situation? You have to go all the way back to October 1979 for a time when there was no Australian in the world’s top ten. Ever since then, a succession of batting greats, such as Greg Chappell, Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey have ensured an unbroken line of high-fliers. For interest’s sake, here are how the world’s top ten stood at that point in time:



Sunil Gavaskar (Ind)


Gundappa Viswanath (Ind)


Javed Miandad (Pak)


Viv Richards (WI)


Alvin Kallicharran (WI)


David Gower (Eng)


Gordon Greenidge (WI)


Zaheer Abbas (Pak)


Geoff Boycott (Eng)


Asif Iqbal (Pak)


You have to go down to number 16 to find the first Australians – Greg Chappell and Graham Yallop level on 632 points. However, England did have two representatives in the top ten.

But – in terms of no England or Australian batsmen in the top ten – it has never happened before. Ever since the very first Test Match was played in 1877 this current time is the first time that the oldest of Test enemies have been absent from the world’s top ten batsmen.

Fortunately, the cupboard isn’t quite so bare bowling-wise. England boast two bowlers in the top ten – Graeme Swann in second and James Anderson fourth, with Stuart Broad knocking on the door in eleventh place. The two Australian lefties – Mitchell Johnson (seventh) and Doug Bollinger (eighth) ensure that there will be some top ten representatives when the teams take to the field at the ‘Gabba next week.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tendulkar's journey to pole position

Sachin Tendulkar debuted as a 16-year-old in November 1989 and recently became just the fifth player to participate in Test cricket in five different decades. In his second Test he became the youngest batsman to make a Test half-century and a legend was born.

He narrow missed becoming the youngest Test centurion when he fell for 88 against New Zealand at Napier in early 1990 but came of age later that summer when he hit an exhilarating century against England at Old Trafford. Twenty years on he is still scoring Test centuries and is back at the top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen. So how has his career progressed Rankings-wise in both formats of the game?

His unbeaten innings in Manchester saw him rise into the top fifty in the batting table for the first time, and he enjoyed a steady climb over the next few years as he established himself in the Indian middle-order alongside captain Mohammed Azharuddin.

A century and two fifties in the 'spinwash' tour by England in early 1993 saw him enter the world's top ten at a time when Graham Gooch and Richie Richardson were swapping the top position between themselves. Further successes at home to the West Indies the following year enabled him to displace Brian Lara at the top of the batting tree. At the age of 21 years, 7 months he became the youngest man to ever reach the number one position, surpassing Garry Sobers' previous record which was set back in 1958.

However, his stay at the top was relatively short due to the astonishing run of form of West Indies' Jimmy Adams who moved above Tendulkar three months later as the Indian suffered a relatively lean couple of years.

This coincided with Steve Waugh's rise to the top of his game and it was the Australia batsman who enjoyed most of 1996 and 1997 at number one. Not to be outdone, the India maestro roared back into form with six centuries in ten Tests which saw him once again reach top spot in March 1998. For the next four years he was never out of the top three, positions which were almost exclusively occupied by Tendulkar, Lara and Waugh. However, once 2003 dawned it was a different story as his five Tests in that calendar year brought him just one fifty and a batting average of 17.

In 2004 came his highest Test score - an unbeaten 248 against Bangladesh at Dhaka, during the course of which he shared in an Indian record partnership of 133 for the tenth wicket with Zaheer Khan.

Injuries had started to catch up with him though, and the next two years brought only one century as he plummeted to number 22 - his lowest position for fourteen years. Some people questioned whether he would be able to continue to be a productive member of the Indian middle-order powerhouse which also featured Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.

His climb back to the top can perhaps be traced from his match-winning unbeaten century in the fourth innings of the Chennai Test against England in December 2008, when India successfully chased 387 to win the match - a record for a Test on the subcontinent. Since then he hasn't looked back as his subsequent 16 Tests have brought him a further 8 centuries and 7 fifties.

All this has been good enough to take him back to the top spot, a position he last occupied in August 2002. His current tally of 891 points has put him within touching distance of becoming just the second Indian batsman to reach the magical barrier of 900 points, after his boyhood hero Sunil Gavaskar.

With his return to the top, Tendulkar has now spent a total of 126 Tests at number one, a total only surpassed by 3 men - Garry Sobers, Viv Richards and Brian Lara.

His first ODI appearance came just a month after his Test debut. It was an inauspicious start as both his first two innings ended in second ball ducks - courtesy of Waqar Younis and Shane Thomson. He reached double figures in each of his next six matches, but finally made his first half-century against Sri Lanka at Pune in December 1990, becoming the youngest at the time to score an ODI half-century.

A tally of eleven fifties in his first 40 matches saw him rise as high as number three at a time when Dean Jones was ruling the roost in the shorter format of the game.

However, he was unable to take that next step - either to reach three figures or to reach the number one position. It may sound strange now - especially with his current tally of 46 centuries in ODI cricket, but his first century did not come until his 79th match. He finally made the breakthrough with an innings of 110 against Australia at Colombo in September 1994.

Once the first one came, the floodgates were opened for good.

He became the youngest player to top the ODI Batting Ratings as a 22-year-old on Leap Year Day in 1996 and celebrated by hammering a run-a-ball 137 against Sri Lanka at Delhi. But his initial stay at the top was brief as Brian Lara was in the middle of a superb run of form which saw him own the number one position for most of the next three years.

While not quite reaching the heights of his West Indies counterpart, Tendulkar was able to maintain his position in the top three for the majority of that time. He did manage a one-point lead over Lara for two months thanks to two undefeated centuries in a week against Zimbabwe at Sharjah.

Australia batsman Michael Bevan dominated most of the following three and a half years, but Tendulkar was never far behind him, even managing to sneak ahead of him on a few brief occasions. A surge in form in England in 2002 saw him move ahead of him for good and he enjoyed a three-month stay as number one in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI batsmen. Over the next two years it was a tussle for the top spot between a number of players - Ricky Ponting, Marcus Trescothick, Adam Gilchrist and Chris Gayle all enjoying extended stays as well as Tendulkar.

Fans were wondering whether they had seen the end of the little master as a tennis elbow injury laid him low soon after he had surrendered the number one position to Jacques Kallis in September 2004. The following couple of years were a struggle as he dropped as low as number 26 soon after ICC Champions Trophy 2006. However, an undefeated century against the West Indies at Vadodara in January 2007 saw him turn the corner.

He was unfortunate to be dismissed in the nineties four times in nine matches on the tour of the British Isles that summer, but when he finally made it to three figures - against Australia at Sydney in March 2008 - it was enough to push him above Ponting and back to the number one position.

Alas it was only for ten days as South Africa's Graeme Smith edged ahead of him, but with an average of more than a hundred over his last eight matches - including his memorable, world record 200 not out against South Africa at Gwalior, his time at the top may not be done. He will be hoping to add to his 112 ODIs at number one - good enough for ninth on that particular list.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The greatest ICC Cricket World Cup innings of all time

24 years ago at Karachi, Viv Richards put the Sri Lankan bowlers to the sword with an incredible innings of 181 from just 125 deliveries which powered the West Indies to a total of 360-4 and victory by 191 runs. Without doubt, this ranks as one of the greatest innings ever played in any ICC Cricket World Cup, but how does the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings computer see it? Here is a countdown of the top eleven CWC innings covering the nine tournaments so far:

11 – Adam Gilchrist (Aus) 149 (104) v SL at Bridgetown in 2007
Having had a disappointing competition, the Australian wicket-keeper experimented by inserting a squash ball into his batting glove for the final. The result was spectacular as he recorded the highest-ever individual score in an ICC Cricket World Cup final as he led Australia to a 53-run victory.

10 – David Houghton (Zim) 142 (137) v NZ at Hyderabad in 1987
Chasing 243 for victory, the Zimbabwean keeper fought a lone hand as his side slumped to 104-7. Iain Butchart then joined him in a competition-record partnership of 117 for the eighth wicket, but all was to no avail as the Kiwis sneaked home by just 3 runs.

9 – Allan Lamb (Eng) 102 (105) v NZ at The Oval in 1983
Facing an attack featuring three of the top five rated bowlers at the time – Richard Hadlee, Ewen Chatfield and Chris Cairns – Lamb smashed his way to a century to help England to 322-6. Martin Snedden suffered the most as his 12 overs cost him 105 runs and the home team ended up winning by 106 runs.

8 – Ramiz Raja (Pak) 119* (155) v NZ at Christchurch in 1992
The Kiwis had been the form team in the early stages of ICC Cricket World Cup 1992 but their batting failed against the Pakistani pace attack on a helpful pitch. At 9-2 chasing just 167 to win, Pakistan could have collapsed, but Ramiz anchored the chase perfectly and victory was achieved by seven wickets.

7 – Zaheer Abbas (Pak) 103* (121) v NZ at Nottingham in 1983
The Kiwi bowling attack in ICC Cricket World Cup 1983 was arguably the strongest it has ever been in the shorter format of the game. However here it was middle-order maestro Zaheer to the rescue after the Pakistani top three had all failed to progress beyond 33. His innings was crucial in the end, as the Kiwi chase only ended 11 runs short.

6 – Sourav Ganguly (Ind) 183 (158) v SL at Taunton in 1999
His partnership of 318 for the second wicket with Rahul Dravid is still the CWC record for any wicket and Ganguly certainly enjoyed the short boundaries at Taunton, clearing them seven times. Even Muttiah Muralitharan couldn’t stem the flow of runs as Sri Lanka subsided to a 157-run defeat

5 – Dennis Amiss (Eng) 137 (147) v Ind at Lord’s in 1975
Ironically this match is now primarily remembered for Sunil Gavaskar’s unbeaten 36 spanning 174 deliveries in India’s chase, but Amiss lit up the first half of the match. More than 35 years on, it remains the highest individual score for England in any ICC tournament.

4 – Keith Fletcher (Eng) 131 (147) v NZ at Nottingham in 1975
Both England’s openers had been dismissed with just 28 on the board, but after starting slowly, Fletcher blossomed to such an extent that 53 runs were added in the last five overs of the innings to lift the total to 266, before he was run out from the final delivery. It was too much for the Kiwis who were all out for just 180 in reply.

3 – Viv Richards (WI) 181 (125) v SL at Karachi in 1987
Coming in with Ravi Ratnayeke on a hat-trick, Richards’s innings set a new record for all ICC CWC matches and it propelled the West Indies to a total of 360-4 – a record at the time in all ODI cricket, helped by a more sedate century from Desmond Haynes. Mahanama and Kuruppu started the chase at 12 runs per over, but it all ended in a 191-run win for the West Indies.

2 – Viv Richards (WI) 138* (157) v Eng at Lord’s in 1979
What better setting for a memorable hundred than a final? This was arguably Viv’s finest hour as he rescued the reigning champions from 99-4 with a partnership of 139 with Collis King who made 86. He hit three 6s and eleven 4s to lift his side to 286-9. England’s opening partnership of 129 between Brearley and Boycott took 38 overs and Joel Garner ripped through the tail to seal victory.

1 – Kapil Dev (Ind) 175* (138) v Zim at Tunbridge Wells in 1983
A match which has entered cricketing folklore. With qualification for the semi-finals in some doubt, India slumped to 17 for five before Kapil began his assault, slamming sixteen 4s and six 6s from just 138 deliveries. Not content with that, he followed up with an economical spell to lead India to a narrow victory and subsequently inspired them to their only ICC CWC triumph.

Innings just missing this countdown include Andrew Symonds’s 143 not out against Pakistan in 2003, Clive Lloyd’s century in the 1975 final, Brian Lara’s 111 against South Africa in 1996 and Steve Waugh’s memorable unbeaten century against South Africa at Leeds in 1999.

With the tenth ICC Cricket World Cup just around the corner, it remains to be seen whether anyone will be able to dislodge Kapil from the top of the tree. One thing is for certain – if it happens then the cameras will be there, unlike in poor Kapil’s case in 1983.

Monday, September 27, 2010

How ‘bout them spinners

A casual glance at the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI bowlers shows an unusual top of the table. The top four bowlers are all spinners and three of them – Daniel Vettori, Shakib al Hasan and Ray Price – are left-arm spinners. Graeme Swann – up into third place after his recent successes in England’s ODI series with Pakistan – is the only off-spinner among them. Conversely, a glance at the Test bowling table shows that Swann is the only slow bowler in the top nine, with Harbhajan Singh sneaking in at number ten.

The early years of Test cricket were littered with spinners who reached Number 1 such as Billy Bates, Bobby Peel and Johnny Briggs, but in terms of the shorter form of the game, this current level of success is almost unprecedented.

From the first match played in January 1971 it wasn’t until December 1987 that a spinner managed to reach the number one spot. The early years had been dominated by the speedsters with the likes of Andy Roberts, Dennis Lillee, Richard Hadlee, Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall all enjoying lengthy stays in the number one position. When the breakthrough finally came after the 482nd One Day International ever played, it was a surprising name to make it. And after he had faded from view, it was another six years before another spinner equalled his performance. So – in nearly the first quarter of a century of ODI cricket, only one spinner was able to look down on the rest of the cricketing world.

Seen as the heir-apparent to Bishan Bedi, Maninder Singh debuted as a raw seventeen-year-old against arch-rivals Pakistan in late 1982 and beguiled opposition batsmen with his flight and guile. He was a huge success on India’s triumphant 1986 tour of England in which he took 12 wicket in the three-Test series and although suffering the ignominy of being Greg Matthews's final victim in the second Tied Test at Madras later that year, he continued his successes against Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

His performances also picked up in the shorter form of the game and five years after his debut, his consistent, economical performances saw him move above Malcolm Marshall after taking 1-19 in his nine overs against the West Indies in Guwahati. However, it was an all-too brief stay at the top as two months later Richard Hadlee usurped him. The following year he regained the lead position for another six months before disappearing from the international game in 1989. He did briefly resurface in 1993 but with none of his earlier magic and his first-class career ended at the age of just 29.

His Test career followed a similar path and he peaked at number 6 in March 1987 after he took ten wickets against Pakistan at Bangalore. However, they weren’t enough to bring victory to the home side as Pakistan sneaked home by just 16 runs to claim a 1-0 series win.

It was back to the pacemen after Maninder’s short interlude and it wasn’t until 1995 that a certain Shane Warne managed to muscle his way above Wasim Akram for a brief stay at number one. The floodgates had been opened though, and Saqlain Mushtaq strolled straight through, bamboozling everyone with his newly-invented doosra and enjoying a 49-match stay on top. Muttiah Muralitharan enjoyed a lengthy stay at number one, and Anil Kumble also hit the heights back in 1996, but of the 32 bowlers to top the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI bowlers, only seven have been spinners. Graeme Swann and Ray Price will be hoping to become the eighth in the near future and – with ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 just around the corner – who would bet against them?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The new Number One

AB de Villiers originally started in international cricket as a wicket-keeping replacement for Mark Boucher, but he had such a successful start to his Test career that he is still the only South African to reach 1,000 Test runs within a year of making his Test debut. By that time he was knocking on the door of the world’s top twenty in the longer format of the game, but he subsequently suffered the “sophomore slump” and at one stage went 23 Tests without reaching three figures between December 2005 and January 2008.

But there was never any real danger of him being dropped, despite yo-yoing up and down the batting order and to this date he is yet to miss a match. His current streak of 61 Tests is second only to Mark Boucher’s 75 between 1998 and 2004 in terms of consecutive matches played for the Proteas.

He emerged from his batting doldrums in early 2008 and since then he has steadily marched up the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen towards his current career-best position of 11th. No longer does he have to play second-fiddle to those other two powerhouses Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith as he has become a true international class Test batsman in his own right. In 2008 he became the first South African to score a Test double-century in India when his unbeaten 217 at Ahmedabad helped his side to an innings victory.

As impressive as this recent run of form has been, his efforts in the shorter form of the game have been even more eye-opening. Earlier in his career it would have been easy to have considered him a latter-day Jonty Rhodes – electric in the field but not that consistent with the willow in his hand. Rhodes managed to reach the top ten in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI batsmen but failed to reach higher than 26th in Test cricket despite playing 52 Tests.

However, in the past couple of years de Villiers has made the transition from a player who could play useful cameos into the top-rated ODI batsman in the world. Most frequently he has batted at number 4 so he has rarely been able to take advantage of the first powerplay. Despite that, since the start of 2009 he has averaged 67.68 with a strike rate of 99 in his 25 ODI matches, which has propelled him to the top of the table, above MS Dhoni who had made that position pretty much exclusively his own for the last eighteen months.

Four other South African batsmen have enjoyed the position of being able to look down on the rest of the world from the lofty perch as the top-rated ODI batsman. The first was Hansie Cronje who had a brief six-match, eleven-day stay in late 1994 in an era dominated by Brian Lara. The only Protea so far to break the magical 900 point barrier in the shorter form of the game is surprisingly Gary Kirsten. Most often remembered as a gritty Test opener who once defied England’s bowlers for 878 minutes at Durban to save a match, he achieved this unique feat in 1996 at the end of a period in which he hit six centuries in 21 matches. Since then both Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith have enjoyed 60-odd matches in top spot.

Not content with being a talented sportsman in golf, hockey, tennis and rugby, he has recently illustrated yet another string to his bow by releasing a music album with Ampie du Preez on which he plays the guitar and sings two of the songs.

Having just reached 800 points for the first time, de Villiers has a way to go before he emulates Kirsten’s peak. In fact, no batsman in ODI cricket worldwide has reached 900 points since Brian Lara back in 1997. This could be a reflection on the increased number of matches played nowadays, but at the age of 26 he should be approaching his peak years as a batsman and – as the youngest man to top the table since MS Dhoni four years ago - he could be set to dominate for a number of years to come.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the thirteenth and all that

Cricket is littered with superstitions – from the late umpire David Shepherd’s refusal to keep both feet on the ground when the score reached a multiple of 111 to the Australian fear of the number 87. In honour of this inauspicious date, here are some superstitious cricketers and how they feared in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings.

Jack Russell was England’s first-choice wicket-keeper for the best part of a decade and was a nuggety left-handed batsman who frequently dug England out of deep holes when they had lost a number of early wickets. However, he also made his name from his refusal to wear anything other than his tatty Gloucestershire hat on his head and his penchant for baked beans and English tea when on tour. Having made 94 on his Test debut against Sri Lanka, he peaked at 39th place and 433 points soon after helping Mike Atherton save the 1995 Johannesburg Test.

South Africa’s Neil McKenzie had a habit of taping his bat to the ceiling before each innings and insisted that every toilet seat in the dressing room was down when he went out to bat. It certainly didn’t do him too much harm, as he returned from a four year wilderness period to reach 24th in the batting charts. However, his form soon declined and he now plays as a Kolpak for Hampshire.

Mark Ramprakash became a national name with his victory in ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ but he had a strange cricketing superstition too. He would always chew the same piece of gum throughout an innings, and stick it to the top of his bat if he was not out overnight. His longest Test innings – 154 against the West Indies at Bridgetown lasted 9 hours which must have left him with a pretty tired jaw. However, these peaks were few and far between in his Test career and he endured many spells in and out of the side. Like McKenzie, he also peaked at number 24 in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen.

Players from the subcontinent have also experimented with various superstitions. Kris Srikkanth – perhaps the forerunner to the exciting openers we see today - used to look at the sun, put his left pad on first and always walked to the right of his partner while going to bat. He managed to reach the top twenty Test batsmen in 1988 and performed even better in the shorter form of the game – reaching number 12 and sneaking through the 700 point barrier.

A man with tremendous respect for his father Lala, Jimmy Amarnath always carried a red handkerchief in his pocket, just like his father did. Possibly best remembered for his man-of-the match performance in the ICC World Cup 1983 when his Indian side upset the all-conquering West Indies, he also achieved great things in Test cricket. His superb series against the same West Indies side earlier in 1983 carried him to 8th in the world with 720 points. He never achieved such heights in ODI cricket, but was a good enough all-rounder to break into the top thirty with both bat and ball.

Red handkerchiefs also occupy a permanent place in the pockets of two other modern players. Steve Waugh played 168 Tests for Australia and blossomed from a useful all-rounder to one of the greatest batsmen the world has ever seen. Only four men have had more than his 94 Tests at number 1 and he peaked at 895 points. He was no slouch in ODI cricket either, as his memorable century against South Africa in ICC World Cup 1999 and he reached the top ten in that form too, not to mention number 11 with the ball.

Virender Sehwag is another who carries a red handkerchief with him. After a century on his Test debut, his next couple of years were relatively quiet, but then he burst onto the world scene with a number of eye-catching high scores, passing 300 on two occasions and scoring at a rate no opener in Test history has approached. This culminated in his reaching the number one spot in early 2010 after an innings of 165 against South Africa at Kolkata. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, he has never been the top rated ODI batsman, peaking at number 2 way back in 2003.

However, superstitions are not merely the preserve of modern-day cricketers. England’s first professional captain, Len Hutton always use to carry a five shilling coin given to him by a friend of his grandfather with the advice never to part with it. It certainly helped him on his way to becoming one of the greatest batsmen of all time and his highest Rating of 945 which he achieved in 1954 is second only to Don Bradman’s 961 in the all-time list.

His team-mate in the England team for 62 matches Denis Compton also had a peculiar habit of his own. He always used to carry a silver four-leaf clover with him. Another of England’s greatest batsmen and the man who played the stroke which regained the Ashes in 1953 after a 19-year absence, he peaked at 917 points and was the number 1 rated batsman in the world for 13 matches in 1948 and 1949.

There are plenty of others too. Yuvraj Singh believes that the bandana that he now wears has worked wonders for his game. Mark Waugh always used to raise his collar as he walked onto the field, and Sanath Jayasuriya goes through his elaborate ritual of touching all his cricket equipment before taking guard.

Alan Knott had the habit of touching the bails before taking strike. Apparently, in the Oval test in 1971, Indian wicket-keeper Farokh Engineer kept guard over the bails not allowing Knott to touch them and subsequently he was dismissed cheaply.

No doubt there are plenty more, but it is interesting to note that for Australians, the score of 87 is actually the least likely score in the 80s for them to be dismissed. Make of that what you will!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

When Irish eyes are smiling

Eoin Morgan’s maiden Test century was one of the highlights of England’s first Test victory over Pakistan at Trent Bridge. His innings of 130 helped lift England from 118-4 to a total of 354 and an eventual 354-run triumph.

Morgan first made his name for Ireland and reached a career best of 390 points in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI batsmen in April 2009, shortly before switching allegiances to England. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength, peaking at number 13 in June this year and making his Test debut against Bangladesh at Lord’s the same month. However, Morgan is not the first Irish-born cricketer to play Test cricket. In fact he is the tenth. So – who are the others, and how did they perform in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings?

The first Irish-born cricketer played in the very first Test Match of all – at Melbourne in March 1877. Tom Horan was bon in Midleton, near Cork and emigrated to Australia with his parents as a small child. His highest Test score of 124 came in his third Test – the 1882 New Year’s Test in Melbourne and his highest rating was 319 points achieved in his penultimate Test in 1885. Bowling-wise, he managed to reach 375 points the same year, the highest by any Irish-born player. He then turned his hand to journalism, contributing a weekly column to the ‘Australasian” under the pseudonym ‘Felix’.

Close behind Horan was Thomas Kelly who debuted for Australia in the second Test in 1877 scoring 19 and 35 (of which 32 came in boundaries). His career extended to just two Test Matches but he was widely acknowledged as being one of the finest point fielders of his generation.

1879 saw the sole Test appearance of Leland Hone who represented England despite having been born in Dublin and having no first-class experience. Educated at Rugby School, he was drafted into the side captained by Lord Harris as wicket-keeper but only managed scores of 7 and 6 to reach the not-so-giddy heights of 45 Rating points.

Sir Tim O’Brien was a colourful character who was an Irish Baronet, born in Dublin and fathering ten children. He won a Blue at Oxford University, despite making a ‘pair’ in the University match and played regularly for Middlesex throughout the 1880s and 1890s. His Test career spanned twelve years although he failed to pass 20 in any of his eight innings at the top level, and therefore never achieved more than his 139 points or 24th position early in his career.

Joe McMaster was unique among these Irishmen as he played a solitary Test but failed to record either a batting or bowling point as he was dismissed for a duck to the only delivery he faced. He was not called upon to bowl and that was the extent of his first-class career. As the match was only designated a Test some time later, for the two days he participated, he was unaware he had become an international cricketer.

Robert Poore was an army man who was stationed in South Africa in 1896 when he was called up to play three Tests for the home side against the England tourists. Like O’Brien, he too failed to pass 20 in his six innings in the series as George Lohmann routed them to the tune of 35 wickets at the miniscule average of 5.80. The highlight of his career came for Hampshire in 1899 when he scored 304 against Somerset at Taunton, adding 411 for the sixth wicket with fellow Army man Teddy Wynyard. He peaked at 197 points after the third of his Tests.

For the second of those ill-fated Tests in early 1896, Poore was joined in the South African team by Clement Johnson, who only managed to score 3 and 7; dismissed by Lohmann in his first innings and run out second time around. He was born in County Kildare but left Ireland for South Africa in 1893 due to ill health. He toured England as part of the first South African team the following year with some success, but that Johannesburg match was his only taste of the big time.

The owner of the highest Test score by an Irish-born player, Frederick Fane played 14 Tests for England between 1906 and 1910, captaining them in five of those. His innings of 143 at Johannesburg in March 1906 was in just his third Test, but was unable to prevent England falling to a heavy defeat. His other claim to fame is that he was Jack Hobbs’s first opening partner for England – against the Aussies at Melbourne in January 1908 – outscoring the ‘Master’ in the second innings. His peak of 457 points was good enough for 11th place and it that points tally remained an Irish-born record until Eoin Morgan sneaked past it after his recent century.

After more than eighty years, another Irish-born player took the field. Martin McCague was born in Larne and grew up in Australia but represented England in three Tests in the mid 1990s, taking 4-121 on his debut against Australia in 1993 at Trent Bridge. However, his undoubted pace couldn’t be backed up by consistent control and so he only managed to reach 86 bowling points, despite performing admirably for Kent for the best part of a decade.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Teenage Kicks

One of the bright spots for Pakistan in their first Test defeat to Australia at Lord’s was the bowling of 18-year-ol left-arm paceman Mohammad Amir. He took four wickets in Australia’s first innings taking him to 25 in his nine-Test career to date. Having only turned eighteen as recently as April, he has plenty of time to try to break Daniel Vettori’s record of 54 Test wickets taken as a teenager. His haul moved him up to 52nd in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers with 296 points, with the potential for further gains in the second Test at Headingley.

Test cricket has been littered with teenage cricketers – especially from Asia. A total of 190 men have represented their country while still teenagers, of whom 112 have been from the Asian continent. Indeed Australia and England have boasted just one player each taking the field in a Test Match at such a young age over the past forty years – Craig McDermott and Ben Hollioake respectively.

Commendable as his current tally of 296 points is – especially so early in his career – it ranks only 22nd on the list of highest Test bowling ratings of teenage bowlers – albeit sandwiched between two greats of the game – Garry Sobers on 300 and Javed Miandad (he started his career as a reasonable bowler) on 293.

Vettori is unsurprisingly the only non-Asian in the top seven points-wise with Amir’s team-mate Umar Gul coming in at number 4. He reached 463 points after his 5-31 in India’s first innings at Lahore in May 2004 helped hasten them to a nine wicket defeat. At Lord’s he became the fourteenth Pakistani to take 100 Test wickets.

Up one place with 472 points is someone who participated in 130 Tests – 57 as a player and a further 73 as an umpire – the man universally known as Venkat. Debuting at just 18 in February 1965 his career-best bowling came in just his fourth Test. Facing New Zealand at Delhi the following month, he tore through the tourist’s first innings with figures of 8-72 – becoming the first teenager to take eight in a Test innings. Not content with that, he followed up with four more wickets in the second innings as India triumphed by seven wickets.

Vettori is in second place having reached the giddy heights of 549 points while still a teenager. He was fortunate enough to play sixteen tests before turning twenty (Sachin Tendulkar holds the record with 25) and peaked in June 1998 after taking six Sri Lankan wickets in their second innings at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo. That wasn’t enough to help New Zealand win as they folded to the twin spin threat of Murali and Niroshan Bandaratilleke second time around.

However, the man who tops the pile having reached 553 points is a remarkable player who was born in one country but played for another, and managed to open the batting and also bat in every position from number 3 to number 11.

Nasim-ul-Ghani was born in Delhi in 1941 and made his Test debut for Pakistan against the West Indies at Bridgetown in January 1958, becoming at the time the youngest-ever Test cricketer. It was a chastening experience to begin with as Pakistan were forced to follow-on 473 runs behind. However, Hanif Mohammad proceeded to bat for more than sixteen hours scoring 337 to ensure a drawn match. Primarily a left-arm spinner, in the fourth Test of the series he became the youngest player to take a 5 wicket haul at the age of just 16 years 303 days, and he followed up with 6-67 in the final match. His peak Rating came after his ninth Test by which time he had taken 33 wickets at just 23.87 each. However, his form tailed away after that and his last 20 Tests brought him just 19 further wickets at an average of 61.63 despite becoming the first night-watchman to score a Test century when he made 101 at Lord’s in 1962.

With Pakistan due to play England in a four-Test series after their battle with Australia, there is every chance that Amir could move up this list and even challenge his countryman at the top.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Brett Lee – a Test career in review

A notable absentee from the Australian team participating in the ICC World Twenty20 in the Caribbean is Brett Lee. The spearhead of the attack following the retirement of Glenn McGrath after ICC World Cup 2007, he was forced to miss the competition due to an arm injury, a sad echo of the ankle trouble which forced him to miss the longer format of the competition when it was hosted in the Caribbean three years ago.

He ended his Test career with 310 wickets – fourth in the pantheon of Australian all-time greats, trailing only Warne, McGrath and Lillee. Often overshadowed by the first two for most of his career stats-wise, how do the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings assess his career and his contribution to the last decade of Australian cricket?

He made his debut in the 1999 Boxing Day Test against India at Melbourne and marked the occasion by taking 5-47, the first of ten five-wicket hauls in his Test career. In fact he had a stellar start to his career, taking at least 2 wickets in each of the first 10 innings in which he bowled – a mark exceeded by only two bowlers in the history of Test cricket – Ken Higgs and Maurice Tate. It seemed the sky was the limit as he moved into the world’s top twenty Test bowlers after just seven Tests with a tally of 42 wickets at an average of just 16.07. However, there then followed a long period where he “plateaued”, spending the vast majority of the next six years hovering somewhere between tenth and twentieth. At the same time, his bowling average climbed to the wrong side of thirty.

The 2006/07 Ashes series proved to be the catalyst to propel Lee to the highest level. At the traditional peak age for faster bowlers of thirty, he took twenty wickets in the series to lead the Australians to a 5-0 whitewash over the reigning Ashes holders. The subsequent retirements of both Warne and McGrath promoted Lee to the spearhead of the attack and he responded superbly. In the winter of 2007/08, he shrugged off the disappointment of missing Australia’s record third successive World Cup triumph by taking 58 wickets in nine Tests leading his side to series victories over Sri Lanka, India and the West Indies. His Rating rose dramatically as a result of this success and Lee reached his peak of 811 points and fourth position at the end of the series in the Caribbean in May 2008.

Surprisingly enough, Lee never managed to take ten wickets in a Test Match. In fact, he and Bob Willis are the only two bowlers to have taken more than 300 Test wickets without achieving that feat. Of course, it didn’t help that Lee’s career overlapped with two of the greatest bowlers to ever play the game, and Willis had to share his wickets with Ian Botham for a large proportion of his career.

Alas, injury has played a part in his career since his most recent Test – the 2008 Boxing Day Test with South Africa at Melbourne, but he was able to end his career still ranked in the top ten in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers despite taking just one wicket in his last two matches.

Once he has recovered from his current injury he will hope to continue his career in One Day International cricket which has so far brought him 324 wickets in 186 matches. A permanent fixture in the world’s top ten ODI bowlers from September 2002 until June 2008, he peaked at 853 points in February 2006 and spent a month on top of the world in early 2006. Who would bet against him recapturing that form with all his efforts focused on that form of the game?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Johnson's Quest

Mitchell Johnson is a relative rarity among world bowlers – in that he bowls left-arm fast. Last year we examined the increasing percentage of left-handed batsmen in world cricket since the Second World War, but there has not been a similar increase in left-handed bowlers over the same time period. However, currently there are two leftie pacemen in the higher echelons of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings as Zaheer Khan’ recent successes have lifted him to sixth place. In addition, Australian newcomer Doug Bollinger’s excellent start to his Test career sees him now up in fifteenth place. Could we be in a golden era of left-arm seamers. Perhaps all that is now needed is a return to form and fitness for England’s Ryan Sidebottom, who peaked at number 5 a couple of years ago.

Johnson has certainly blown hot and cold throughout his Test career but a return of 155 wickets in 34 matches is not something to be sniffed at. In fact, only 4 Australians had taken more wickets over the course of their first 34 matches and Glenn McGrath also tallied 155. But one thing missing from Johnson’s resume is the number one position in the Test bowling charts, a feat achieved by only 4 left-arm pacemen in Test history.

There have been some notable near-misses. Wasim Akram – often considered the greatest of all left-arm quicks - ended his career with 414 Test wickets to go with his 502 in ODI cricket but never made it to the top spot in the Test arena, peaking at number 2. That was also the position that Kiwi Richard Collinge and Australian Bill Whitty reached, while Chaminda Vaas, Trevor Goddard, Bruce Reid and Frank Foster all had to content themselves with third place. Garry Sobers spent more than a decade at the top of the Batting tree but never managed higher than number four with the ball in all his different guises.

Two of the four left-armers reached top spot in the early days of the resumption of Test cricket after the Second World War. England’s Bill Voce – who originally made his name as foil to Harold Larwood in the 1932/33 Bodyline series – spent six months as number one more by default than by any great deeds on the field. Australian Bill O’Reilly had spent the war years as number one before playing his final Test in early 1946 which proved to be a very one-sided affair as New Zealand were routed for just 42 and 54 at Wellington. On his retirement, Voce took over the top spot before five different bowlers shared the spoils in 1947 ending with Ernie Toshack, who spent just 56 days on top spot before Ray Lindwall took over for a large proportion of the next seven years.

Lindwall’s run was interrupted by a left-arm swinging team-mate of his – Bill Johnston – who enjoyed an unbroken two-year spell in the number one position from December 1950. Indeed, during that period he became one of only six Australian bowlers to ever reach the magical 900-point barrier with the ball. Ironically, despite a stellar Test career in which he took 160 wickets in 40 Tests, he is possibly best remembered for his first-class batting average of 102 on the 1953 Australian Ashes tour when he was dismissed just once in 17 innings.

And so to the most recent left-arm paceman to occupy top spot in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers. Alan Davidson made his debut in the ill-fated 1953 tour of England but blossomed into one of Australia’s finest all-round cricketers. In the famous tied Brisbane Test of 1960 he became the first man to score 100 runs and take ten wickets in the same Test. That performance took him to the top of the Test all-rounders table to go along with his top spot in the bowling rankings. He still occupied that position with a staggering total of 902 points when his Test career ended in early 1963 at the age of 33.

So – there are some illustrious names for Johnson to try to emulate, but by peaking at number two he has already achieved more than some of the greats of the game managed in their careers. It will be interesting to see in the years to come if he can reach the heights of his hard-hitting predecessor Davidson. Of course, Dale Steyn et al will be trying their utmost to ensure that he doesn’t!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The best Test team of the 2000s

We’ve tackled the batsmen and bowlers who dominated the first decade of the new Millennium, but what about the teams? Statistically, Australia owned the period, but which line-up of players comprised their best-ever line-up and how do the South African and Indian powerhouses stack up in comparison? Using the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings we can try to discover which the finest team was in the time period by analysing the total points each team had acquired.

Unsurprisingly, the ICC World XI which was assembled for the one-off Test against Australia in October 2005 possessed the highest total of Ratings points with 10422 – the only time a team has managed to break the ten-thousand point barrier. 6774 of those were for batting and 3648 for bowling. Looking at that line-up it is easy to see why no individual team has managed to better that mark – Graeme Smith, Sehwag, Dravid, Lara, Kallis, Inzamam, Flintoff, Boucher, Vettori, Harmison and Muralitharan. It didn’t help them of course, as they went down to a 210-run defeat.

After this representative team, Australians fill the next fifteen slots topped by the eleven who took the field against South Africa at Johannesburg in February 2002. That line-up totalled 9769 points between them and racked up 652-7 declared thanks to centuries from Matthew Hayden and Damien Martyn and an unbeaten double-century from Adam Gilchrist. The Proteas folded for just 159 and 133 in reply and succumbed to the heaviest defeat in their Test history. Let’s have a look at that Australian team in detail:

All of the top seven featured in the world’s top twenty Test batsman, headed by Matthew Hayden (872) in third place and Gilchrist (864) in fourth. Just behind them were Damien Martyn in fifth, Steve Waugh seventh and Justin Langer ninth – so Australians filled more than half of the top nine. Rounding up the batsmen was Ricky Ponting – at the start of his ascent to greatness – with 657 points down in twentieth place. To illustrate how strong a batting line-up this was, no country in Test history has ever bettered the total of 6322 points this Australian team managed on this occasion – even Glenn McGrath contributed 109 batting points to the total.

With the ball, Glenn McGrath led the way with 907 points, just behind Muttiah Muralitatharan, and Shane Warne was surprisingly as low as seventh at the time. Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee also featured in the top sixteen in the world, and the two Waugh brothers both chipped in with a couple of hundred points each.

Australia dominated the team Ratings with only a turn-of-the-century South African team getting a look-in among the top 25 Rated countries taking the field over the course of the decade. You have to go down to 56th place to find the first non-Australian or South African team in the list, and surprisingly it is the New Zealand team who played England - and lost - at Lord’s - in 2004. Strength in depth was the key to the over-achieving Kiwi teams of the decade and this one was no different. Their highest-rated batsman was tenth-placed Mark Richardson but they had seven batsmen with Ratings over 500. It was a similar story with the bowlers with 12th placed Chris Martin leading the way. He was well supported by Daryl Tuffey, Chris Cairns, Daniel Vettori and Jacob Oram who were all above the 400-point mark. The highest-rated Indian team is down in 79th place with a total of 8319 points.

The Australians may have had the highest-rated overall team and batting line-up over the decade but they cannot claim the highest-rated bowling attack over the same period of time. That honour goes to the Proteas who even managed to out-point the ICC World XI with one of their bowling line-ups.

In March 2001 South Africa faced off against the West Indies at Bridgetown with the highest-rated Test bowling line-up since a Lillee and Thomson-inspired Australian attack in 1975. Shaun Pollock with 869 and Allan Donald with 830 were second and third in the world, and Jacques Kallis 17th. Nicky Boje and Makhaya Ntini – who had only taken 39 of his career total of 390 Test wickets at the time – were both in the top thirty and Lance Klusener not that far behind them.

However, on that occasion they couldn’t quite force a victory, with the West Indies ending on 88-7 chasing an improbable 265 for victory. It was the lower ranked Kallis and Boje who did most of the damage with Kallis taking six wickets in the West Indies first innings and Boje 4-17 in sixteen overs in the second. The South African bowlers made up for it the following week at Antigua when they helped the visitors to an 82-run victory but it was the batting that let them down in the final Test at Sabina Park when Courtney Walsh and Mervyn Dillon gave the home team a consolation win.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Swann on Song

Thanks to his ten wickets in the first Test with Bangladesh at Chittagong, England’s off-spinner has risen to the giddy heights of second in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers. It has been mentioned widely in the press that he became the first English offie with a ten-wicket match haul since Jim Laker took his nineteen against Australia at Old Trafford in 1956, but how does he compare with his off-spinning predecessors in the England team? Astonishingly, in their entire history of Test cricket, only two of them have managed to achieve top spot.

The first English off-spinner to top the Test charts was Billy Bates who reached 658 points in early 1887. He took 14 wickets at Melbourne in January 1883 which included England’s first-ever Test hat-trick, and he also scored 55 with the bat in England’s innings. However his tenure at the top was cut short by a freak injury in Australia in 1887-88. He was bowling in the nets when a straight-drive hit him in the face, damaging his eyesight so badly that he never played first-class cricket again.

England produced a number of off-spinners over the course of the first half of the 20th Century, but few were able to hold down a regular place in the Test team. Albert Relf was chosen to tour South Africa twice with mixed results and Ciss Parkin topped the bowling averages against the all-conquering 1921 touring Australians, but his career came to an end after he criticised the captain Arthur Gilligan in a newspaper article. Vallance Jupp also had his moments taking 28 wickets in his 8 Tests and briefly made it into the world’s top ten. Tom Goddard took nearly three thousand first-class wickets in a career which extended for thirty years, but he was unfortunate in that his career coincided with that of Hedley Verity, who was the preferred English spin-bowler at the time.

In fact, for the vast majority of the first eighty years of English Test cricket, it was the slow-left-armers who held favour in the team. Bobby Peel, Johnny Briggs, Charlie Blythe and Wilfred Rhodes all took over 100 Test wickets with this style of bowling, and all spent time at the top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers. Verity himself also spent four matches at the top thanks to his 15 wickets against Australia at Lord’s in 1934. It wasn’t until after the Second World War that England produced its second off-spinner to reach the number one spot.

Jim Laker’s nineteen wickets against the Australians at Old Trafford in 1956 are the stuff of cricketing legend. They had the effect of lifting him from sixth to top spot and there he occupied that place for a total of 21 matches. The late 1950s were truly a golden era of spinning talent as South African High Tayfield, Australian Richie Benaud as well as Laker’s England team-mate Tony Lock all enjoyed time at the top of the bowling tree.

Three off-spinners took more than 100 Test wickets for England in the 1960s and 1970s. David Allen is probably best remembered as the man who faced the final deliveries in the famous 1963 Lord’s Test with the West Indies with Colin Cowdrey nursing a broken arm at the non-striker’s end. But he was a good enough bowler to reach as high as the number 5 spot earlier the same year. Ray Illingworth will be forever linked with the trumphant 1970/71 Ashes tour when he was chaired off the field after the series-clinching victory at Sydney. His 3-39 in Australia’s second innings of that Test lifted him to his career-high of 647 points and seventh place.

However, the man who has achieved the highest Rating since Laker while bowling off-spin for England is Fred Titmus. One of the few men to have played first-class cricket in five different decades (the 1940s through the 1980s) he took 153 wickets in a Test career which spanned from 1955 to 1975. The mid-point of that career – the summer of 1965 – brought his highest career Rating. His figures of 5-19 in New Zealand’s second innings at Headingley hastened them to an innings defeat and propelled him up to 797 points and third place, only trailing fellow off-spinner Lance Gibbs and Wes Hall.

John Emburey has been the most durable offie used by England over the past quarter of a century, but he only briefly made it into the world’s top ten – early in 1987 after the triumphant Ashes tour under Mike Gatting. Current England Chief Selector Geoff Miller managed to reach number 19 in early 1984 but his successors Eddie Hemmings, Peter Such and Robert Croft – despite all having fleeting moments in the sun - never managed to crack the world’s top 25 in the longer format of the game.

So – having already attained the highest points tally for any English off-spinner since Fred Titmus, the challenge for Graeme Swann is now to see if he can emulate Billy Bates and Jim Laker and reach the coveted number one spot.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The leading bowlers in world cricket

So, if Bradman is the number one batsman, who is the number one bowler using this criteria? The answer may surprise a few, but that man is Glenn McGrath. His lead is not as clear-cut as Bradman's but it is significant enough over second placed Curtly Ambrose.

Over his 124 Tests, McGrath had an average Rating of 791 points - an incredible achievement given that his career spanned over thirteen years and after 8 Tests his bowling average stood at a distinctly ordinary 43.68. However, from that moment on his ascent to greatness was rapid and his Rating never dropped below the 800 mark from November 1996 until he retired at the end of the Sydney Test more than a decade later in January 2007.

In total he spent 174 matches at the top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers, a number surpassed by only Muttiah Muralidaran. He first reached number one after taking eight wickets in the 1996 Boxing Day Test against the West Indies which moved him ahead of Pakistani Mushtaq Ahmed, and he was scarcely out of the world's top three after that. His nagging accuracy was second to none - Michael Atherton - who he dismissed a record 20 times - will testify to that, and his final tally of 563 Test wickets is well ahead of the next-highest by a paceman - Courtney Walsh's 519.

In second place to McGrath in terms of average Rating points comes that West Indian miser Curtly Ambrose, whose 405 Test wickets cost just 20.99 each. Over his 98-Test career, he averaged 777 points and spent a total of 145 matches on top of the world. England were his favourite opposition and he is the only non-Australian to take 150 wickets against them, thwarting victory chases on more than one occasion, and helping to humble them for just 46 at Port-of-Spain in early 1994.

Positions three and four are occupied by those two modern-day South African great pace bowlers Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald. They shared 397 wickets in the 47 Tests they played together from 1995 to 2002 and the Proteas won 23 of those Tests, losing only nine.

In fifth place is the first spinner on the list - Muttiah Muralidaran. It may come as a surprise to some that he is this far down, averaging 770 points over his 132-Test career so far, but he was a fairly late starter, and his career only really took off after twenty Tests or so. But once he took 28 wickets in four Tests in early 1997 he never looked back and spent the first of his record 214 matches in the number one spot in January 2002.

Proving their mastery over all bowling conditions, three of the top five Test bowlers in terms of average Ratings points also feature in the ODI list, but there is a slight shuffling of the pack as this time it is Shaun Pollock who comes out on top. When he finally retired in February 2008 his Rating still stood at 894 points, far ahead of second-placed Shane Bond on 755. Pollock had occupied the top position for the last two years of his career and his tally of 844 matches as world number one is more that twice that of anyone else in the shorter format of the game. He played a total of 303 One Day Internationals over the course of his career and averaged 794 points over those.

In second place in the one day arena is a man who just missed out on the top five in the Test game - Joel Garner. Admittedly, scoring rates were somewhat slower when he was in his pomp, but to maintain an economy rate of just 3.09 runs per over in 98 matches goes some way to explaining how he had an average Rating of 776 points. Few people will forget how he blew away England's tail in the 1979 World Cup final ending with figures of 5-38.

Unsurprisingly Messrs McGrath and Ambrose clock in at positions three and four and Michael Holding makes it three West Indians in the top five as he managed to average 739 points in his 102 ODIs. Fortunately for batsmen the world over, Ambrose didn't make his debut until the year after both Holding and Garner hung up their bowling boots, otherwise it really would have been too much to bear.

Lurking just outside the top five at positions six and seven are two Kiwis who played the vast majority of their careers together. While Sir Richard Hadlee often took the headlines, it is sometimes forgotten what an excellent bowler Ewen Chatfield was. They both played practically the same number of matches and averaged pretty much the same. Chatfield's peak of 893 was achieved in 1984 and has only ever been bettered by five bowlers in the history of the game.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tests are to Bradman as ODIs are to…………

It is widely acknowledged that Sir Donald Bradman was the greatest batsman ever to play the game. As if a first-class batting average of 95.14 and a Test average of 99.94 weren’t enough, he scored 29 centuries in only 52 Tests and Australia won 30 of those matches. Even when he was dismissed for a duck in his final Test innings, it became the most famous duck in Test history. The Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings tell us that he had an “average” Rating of 855 points throughout his career, far ahead of the chasing pack. And remember that this is an average over his entire career. After scoring just 18 and 1 in his first Test against England at Brisbane in 1928 his Rating stood at just 120, but he scored 79 and 112 next time out to move up to 467, and the rest is history.

In fact, such is Bradman’s domination of the batting charts that he spent his last 20 Tests at a higher level than anyone else has ever achieved, before retiring at the age of 39. Even his final duck didn’t have a huge effect on his points tally, merely dropping him from 957 to 954.

Next on the batting list comes Jack Hobbs who averaged 799 over the course of his 61 Tests, peaking at 942 in the summer of 1912. It is quite apt that he should be second on the list as his 5,845 days as number one batsman is second only to Bradman’s 6,320. Between the two of them, they occupied top spot for nearly the entire period of time from 1910 to 1948.

Third place by this measure is Brian Lara, whose achievement of averaging 784 points is perhaps even more remarkable in that he played a total of 131 Tests, more than the number Bradman and Hobbs participated in between them. Often holding the fragile West Indian batting together single-handed, setting two individual world record scores in the process, he is just ahead of Len Hutton and Garry Sobers who round out the top five.

So – if Bradman is peerless among batsmen in terms of average Rating points, who is his equivalent in the shorter form of the game? Funnily enough, Bradman’s lead over the second-placed batsman in terms of average Ratings points in Test cricket is pretty much exactly the same as this person’s lead over the second placed man in ODI cricket.

Viv Richards needs no introduction to cricket aficionados. The “Master Blaster” ascended every peak in the game culminating in a Knighthood and a stadium named after him on his home island of Antigua. But perhaps we forget how totally dominating he was in the limited overs arena.

Last year we discovered that more than a quarter of a century on, the Ratings computer rates Richards’s unbeaten innings of 189 against England at Old Trafford in 1984 the greatest-ever ODI innings – and by a clear margin. However, what is truly remarkable about his career is that he spent a lengthy period of time at such a consistently high level, with his points tally permanently hovering between 931 and 935 for a full four-year period following his Old Trafford tour de force.

To summarise – for a period of 73 matches he was batting at a level only one player has ever achieved. Zaheer Abbas reached 931 points fleetingly in 1983 – no-one else has achieved more than 921, and Brian Lara was the last batsman to break the 900 point barrier back in 1997. This glut of run-scoring goes some way to explaining how Richards spent a total of 2,306 days on the top of the batting tree – longer than anyone else.

Unsurprisingly it is the Australian “finisher” Michael Bevan who is next to Richards in the average Ratings stakes, maintaining an average of 793 points throughout his career to end with a batting average of 53.04. Spending a total of 486 matches as the number one in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI batsmen, he often enabled Australia to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with some fantastic late-innings heroics. Who can forget his sensational unbeaten 74 against England at Port Elizabeth in ICC World Cup 2003 when his side were floundering at 135-8 chasing 205 for victory?

In third place on the ODI batting list is an Englishman which may come as a surprise to many considering their recent failings in the shorter form of the game. However, Allan Lamb ended his career with an average of 39 and a strike rate of nearly 76 in an era when scoring rates were far lower than they are today. His sensational 18 runs from Bruce Reid’s final over at the S.C.G. in January 1987 was the stuff dreams are made of.

Two World-cup winning batsmen complete the top five. Dean Jones revolutionised running between the wickets and was a key member of the Australian team who was triumphant against England in the 1987 final at Kolkata. Gordon Greenidge was part of the West Indian teams who won the first two World Cups and came so close to a hat-trick of triumphs in 1983.

Next time we’ll have a look at the bowlers who have achieved the highest average Ratings over the course of their careers and the top names may raise a few eyebrows.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The four decaders

Sachin Tendulkar joined an elite group of Test players when he took the field against Bangladesh last month. He became just the fifth person to play Test cricket in four different decades having made his debut as a sixteen-year-old against Pakistan at Karachi in November 1989. Let’s have a look at the players he emulated and how they performed in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings.

The first man to achieve this most remarkable of feats is also unique in that he participated in Tests in five different decades. That man is Wilfred Rhodes, who started his career as a specialist left-arm spinner in the 1890s who didn’t bat any higher than tenth in any of his first nine Tests. However, by 1912 he had graduated to opening the batting with Jack Hobbs and that pair still holds England’s first wicket record partnership in Ashes Tests with the 323 they added at Melbourne in February 1912. Rhodes also holds England’s record partnership for the tenth wicket too, and by the time he was recalled for his final appearances in 1930 he was back to number 10 playing as a spinner.

Batting-wise, he achieved 646 points and fourth place in December 1913 after he scored 152 against South Africa at Johannesburg in the match that Sydney Barnes took seventeen wickets. However it was with his bowling that he really hit the heights. He spent a total of twelve Tests at the top of the bowling tree between 1904 and 1907 peaking at 823 points. He was unfortunate that despite ending his first-class career just 31 runs short of the 40,000 run / 4,000 wicket double, he never topped the Test all-rounder table thanks to South African Aubrey Faulkner who reached his peak around the same time Rhodes did.

Jack Hobbs made his Test debut in 1908 and ‘The Master’ was only toppled from his lofty perch at the top of the Batting Ratings for one match in the entire period from 1912 to 1928 (by South African Herbie Taylor in 1923). He peaked at 942 at the end of 1912 which is the third-highest points tally ever achieved. His opening partnership with Herbert Sutcliffe was legendary and he spent more than a quarter of his Test career with a Rating of over 900 points. His career records of 61,760 first-class runs with 199 centuries will never be beaten and no-one else has ever scored a Test century at the age of 46. Even when he finally ended his international career after the 1930 Ashes series he was still ranked as high as number six.

Frank Woolley made his England debut the year after Hobbs and indeed only Hobbs scored more first-class runs than Woolley. However the Kent left-hander also managed to take more than two thousand wickets and over a thousand catches. Both his batting and bowling were good enough on their own to take him into the top three for each skill at various points of his career peaking at 701 with the bat and 557 with the ball. He finally reached the top spot for all-rounders at the age of 42 after taking nine wickets at Wellington during England’s tour of New Zealand in 1930. He ended his career in somewhat bizarre circumstances as stand-in wicket-keeper for an injured Les Ames against Australia at The Oval in 1934 and let through a Test-record 37 byes.

Brian Close became England’s youngest-ever Test cricketer when he made his debut against New Zealand at Old Trafford in 1949, and became the youngest player to achieve the “double” of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in an English summer the same year. Despite a first-class career spanning 37 years, he never quite hit the heights in the Test game. His highest Batting Rating of 469 and position of 28th were both achieved in 1963 after some consistent scoring in the series with the West Indies and he never made it into the top thirty of the world’s bowlers despite taking more than a thousand wickets in first-class cricket. He is perhaps best remembered for his return to England colours as a 45-year-old against the all-conquering West Indians in 1976.

And so to Tendulkar. He became the youngest player to ever top the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen at the age of 21 in November 1994 and subsequently spent a total of 125 Tests at the top of the pile – the fourth-most of any player. His highest points tally came in 2002 when he reached 898 and he recently re-entered the world’s top ten after centuries in consecutive Tests against Bangladesh. In the shorter format of the game he has spent a further 112 matches as the world’s number one batsman peaking at 887 points in 1998.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bangladesh - ten years on

It was back in 2000 when Bangladesh first took the field in Test cricket, playing India in Dhaka. At the start, things went well: captain Aminul Islam won the toss and proceeded to score a nine-hour 145 helping his team to a total of 400. After three days of play India were 366-7 in response, but by the end of the following day it was all over, with the home team capitulating to just 91 all out in its second innings.

A great deal has changed since then: the Bangabandhu National Stadium has given way to the new Shere Bangla National Stadium up the road in Mirpur, and the old guard of that first foray into international cricket has been swept away in favour of a youthful team which hardly ever takes the field with an average age greater than 23. By contrast, the Australian team who won the Ashes in the 2006/07 series had an average age of over 33 when they took the field at Brisbane and Adelaide.

Despite those initial few positive days in the longer format of the game, Bangladesh has flattered to deceive for most of its Test career so far with only three victories in its 63 Tests to date, and two of those were against an under-strength West Indies team last July. But if the team has so far failed to deliver on the biggest stage, how have its players performed individually in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings?

There is no denying the batsmen have flair, as Tamim Iqbal's memorable 151 in the recent Test in Mirpur will testify. All through the past decade there have been flashes in the pan - more often than not by Mohammad Ashraful, but who are the players who have sustained their form long enough to have had the greatest impact on the batting and bowling tables?

Only one Bangladeshi has made it into the top 25 of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen and that man is Habibul Bashar. After impressing with an innings of 71 in Bangladesh's first-ever Test, he passed fifty on ten occasions in his first 11 Tests. This superb start, when he was often the lone thorn in the side of opposition bowlers enabled him to reach the giddy heights of 24th place and 656 points towards the end of 2003. However, his form fell away and after averaging nearly forty for the first half of his career, he only averaged 25 for the second half and his rating actually fell after each of his last nine Tests before he was dropped in early 2008.

However, there is a glimmer of hope for the current crop of batsmen. Both Mushfiqur Rahim and Tamim Iqbal are currently at their highest-ever points totals at 534 and 532 respectively and are both just outside the world's top forty. With age on their side - Mushfiqur is 21 and Tamim 20 - they both have bright futures ahead of them and could threaten Habibul's best. Current captain Shakib al Hasan has topped the ODI all-rounder table for the past year and has also shown good form with the bat in recent Test matches.

It is unsurprising that it is two spinners who have achieved the greatest heights for the Tigers with the ball. Mohammad Rafiq is currently the only Bangladeshi bowler to break the 100 Test wicket barrier and it was he who managed to first break into the world's top twenty back in 2004 after taking 6-122 against New Zealand at Chittagong. His peak Rating of 587 was achieved after his 5-65 against Zimbabwe at the same venue early the following year.

However, it is the current captain Shakib al Hasan who has achieved the greatest peak for the team in terms of both points and position. His five-wicket haul in India's first innings in the recent Test at Chittagong enabled him to rise to 633 points and 14th in the world, a position he maintained after the second Test at Mirpur. At just 22, age is definitely on his side, as historically spinners reach their peak rating at an age of about 30.

Pace bowling has been where the Bangladeshis have struggled. Their highest pace bowling points total was the 459 achieved by Mashrafe bin Mortaza in 2007, but his recent injuries have slowed his progress and he missed the recent series with India. Shahadat Hossain took five wickets in India's first innings at Chittagong to rise to 453 and he currently sits 35th in the world.

So, whereas it has been a disappointing first decade in Test cricket for the ICC's newest Full Member, there are definite signs to be positive. It is a young team, but there is every prospect that in the decade to come, more of its players will be making a significant impact in the higher reaches of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings. Shakib al Hasan has already proven his ability in the shorter format of the game having led both the bowling and all-rounder tables. Its population of 162 million will be hoping that its current crop of players will continue to progress in the coming years and more of his team-mates will enjoy looking down on the rest of the cricketing world.

Monday, January 4, 2010

That was the decade that was

The 2000s was the busiest decade ever in international cricket with 464 Test Matches, 1405 One Day Internationals and 414 Women’s One Day Internationals played. In the case of the last two, the decade pretty much doubled the previous number of matches in the history of the two genres. Scarcely a week went by without some kind of competitive international cricket around the world.

It seems a long time ago now that 1 January 2000 dawned with the following players occupying the top spots in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings:

Test batsmen: Brian Lara
Test bowlers and all-rounders: Shaun Pollock
ODI batsmen: Michael Bevan
ODI bowlers: Shaun Pollock
ODI all-rounders: Lance Klusener
Women’s ODI batsmen: Belinda Clark
Women’s ODI bowlers: Catherine Campbell
Women’s ODI all-rounders: Karen Smithies

So who do the rankings list as the leading players of the decade?

Nine Test batsmen achieved the landmark of 900 points topped by Ricky Ponting’s pinnacle of 942, achieved after his innings of 142 at Adelaide in December 2006. In the history of Test cricket, only two men – Don Bradman and Len Hutton – have achieved a greater peak. With the ball, Muttiah Muralidaran took an astonishing 565 Test wickets in the decade and peaked at 920 points after taking 12-82 in the match against Bangladesh at Kandy in July 2007. So if those are the peaks in individual form, what about those who were able to sustain their form over more extended periods?

As mentioned, there were 464 Tests played in the ten-year period from 2000 to 2009. It is possible to examine who occupied top spot for most of those matches, and that man is Indian maestro Sachin Tendulkar. He may not have scored most runs in the decade – that honour belongs to Ricky Ponting – but his tally of 79 matches spent at the top of the batting tree is the highest of any of the 17 players to top the batting tree. He is three matches ahead of Ponting, with Brian Lara (69) the only other man to have spent more than fifty matches on top. Spare a thought for poor old Michael Clarke whose spell at the top lasted just one match and two days!

With the ball, it is a far more exclusive club with only six men having the honour of being world number one. Muralidaran dominates with 214 matches, followed by Glenn McGrath’s 135 and Shaun Pollock with 77. Between them, these three occupied top spot for more than 90% of the time.

In the case of all-rounders, it is even more of a one-man show. Jacques Kallis follows in the fine tradition of South African multi-taskers, and he spent 378 of the decade’s matches looking down at the rest of the world. In fact, only three other men managed a look-in: Chris Cairns, Shaun Pollock and Andrew Flintoff were the others, but their combined total of time at the top amounted to less than two years as the South African was the irresistible force among two-dimensional players.

In the shorter format of the game, it is easy to forget how great a one-day player Michael Bevan was. The consummate ‘finisher’, he started the decade in top spot and spent 342 matches there, nearly twice the number of runner-up MS Dhoni, who has been top for most of the last eighteen months. It was Bevan who achieved the highest points tally too with 880 back in February 2000. Fellow Aussies Mike Hussey and Matthew Hayden were the only other two batsmen to break the 850 point barrier.

Bowling-wise, three players managed to sneak through the 900 mark. Shaun Pollock spent 641 matches on top of the world – nearly three times as many as the next two on the list – and peaked at 917 in early 2007 after taking 5-17 against Pakistan. Pollock’s points tally was the highest by anyone since Richard Hadlee in 1984 – a remarkable achievement in these modern days of heavy bats and fast scoring. Murali spent 244 matches in top spot and peaked at 913 and Glenn McGrath took the bronze medal on both fronts with 221 matches and a peak of 903.

It is no surprise to see South Africans dominating the ODI all-rounders with three of the top five in terms of matches at the top hailing from the Rainbow Nation. Kallis and Pollock are unsurprisingly the top two with Lance Klusener the other. He was the dominant force in the shorter format of the game early in the decade following his ‘Player of the Tournament’ award in the ICC Cricket World Cup 1999. Special mention should go to Andrew Flintoff and Shakib-al-Hasan who both managed to sneak in among the South Africans and spend a significant portion of time as number one.

Three batsmen were the leading lights of Women’s ODI cricket over the decade. Turn-of-the-decade leader Belinda Clark dominated the early years, before Karen Rolton took over and spent the most matches at the top – 197. Her peak of 873 points in 2004 was also the highest achieved by anyone. England’s Claire Taylor spent most of the latter part of the decade in the number one spot – a total of 123 matches – and these three left little time for anyone else to enjoy the glory.

With the ball, it was Australian Cathryn Fitzpatrick who was without doubt the leading performer. She was not only top for the most matches – 240 – but her peak points total of 899 achieved in 2004 is nearly a hundred more than anyone else has managed in the history of Women’s ODI cricket.

Australians also dominated the Women’s ODI standings with Rolton and team-mate Lisa Sthalekar spending all but eight of the decade’s 414 matches as the world’s number one. Rolton peaked in October 2006 when her batting rating was 856 and her bowling 770 – a spectacular achievement.

So as we move forward into the 2010s, it will be fascinating to see which players make the biggest impact on the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings as the decade of international cricket is played out. Come back in January 2020 to find out!

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 - a Ratings year in review

As we move out of 2009, let’s look back on the Ratings year and discover who were the biggest movers and shakers over the course of the twelve months of international cricket just completed.

In the Test arena, not a single batsman managed to break the elusive 900 point barrier. This is a far cry from 2008 when five different batsmen achieved the feat. It was very much chop and change in the top spot too as incredibly seven different batsman were ranked number one at various stages of the year. Shiv Chanderpaul began 2009 in pole position, but he was usurped by the returning Mohammad Yousuf. Younus Khan, Gautam Gambhir, Kumar Sangakkara, Michael Clarke and Mahela Jayawardena all enjoyed brief spells of looking down at the rest of the batting world. However, no-one bettered Chanderpaul’s tally of 892 points achieved during the West Indies home series with England in February.

Two individual performances share the honour of being the highest-rated innings by the computer over the year. First up was Younus Khan with his 313 against Sri Lanka at Karachi in February. And it was the Sri Lankan bowlers who also conceded Virender Sehwag’s 293 at Mumbai last month. The bronze medal goes to Mahela Jayawardena for his 275 against India at Ahmedabad.

With the ball, could 2009 be remembered as the year when Muttiah Muralitharan began to look mortal? Having started the year on 897 points, he only took 26 wickets in his eight Tests at an average of 45.96 to end the year on 752 – his lowest points total since March 1998. Dale Steyn took advantage of Murali’s fall to take over top spot in July and has remained there ever since.

Performance-wise, there is a surprise name on top of the list. In a country not known for its spinning pedigree, Paul Harris turned in a memorable nine for 161 against Australia at Cape Town this March to lead them to an innings victory. Next up is Jerome Taylor who devastated England’s second innings at Kingston to the tune of 5-11. In third place is England’s swinger James Anderson who took nine wickets as the West Indians couldn’t cope with the cold early May conditions at Chester-le-Street. Special mention must go to Graeme Swann whose efforts at The Oval and Durban were both ranked in the top ten and enabled him to rise to the giddy heights of third place at the end of the year.

In the shorter format of the game, two batsmen crossed the 800-point barrier during the course of the year. MS Dhoni was top of the batting tree for the vast majority of the year, topping out at 837 points in October. And it was Mike Hussey who was the other – peaking at 813 against South Africa back in April. It was slim pickings in terms of bowlers in 2009 as the highest points total was just 766 – by Daniel Vettori – and that came early in the year too. The next-highest total was Nathan Bracken’s 745.

Charles Coventry’s record-equalling unbeaten innings of 194 for Zimbabwe against Bangladesh in Bulawayo in August was the highest-rated One Day International innings of the year. The runner-up was Brendon McCullum’s 131 from 129 balls against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi and Tillekeratne Dilshan was the bronze medallist for his unbeaten 137 also against Pakistan in Lahore.

A number of bowlers took turns to lead the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI bowlers over the course of the year. Nathan Bracken started the year in top spot and two Kiwis had the honour - Daniel Vettori and Kyle Mills. Nuwan Kulasekara spent March to September as world number one, and Shakib al Hasan was top for just a day - from 5-6 November.

Bowling-wise, it is an Englishman who provided the highest-rated performance of the year. James Anderson’s 5-23 against South Africa at Port Elizabeth routed them for just 119 and set up a seven-wicket triumph. Next is Daniel Vettori who took 4-20 in his ten overs as New Zealand bowled the West Indies out for just 128 at Wellington in January. In third place comes Shane Bond who devastated England’s top order in the Champions Trophy match at the Wanderers to take 3-21 and lead the Kiwis to a four-wicket victory.

In terms of all-rounders, in the Test rankings Jacques Kallis continued his dominance at the top, as he maintained the number one position he has occupied continuously since May 2006 and for the vast majority of the 2000s. In the shorter form of the game, New Zealand’s Jacob Oram started the year in top spot. However, after scoring an unbeaten 33 and taking 3-15 against Zimbabwe in Dhaka on 23 January, Bangladesh’s Shakib al Hasan took over top spot and has held it ever since.

Next time, we’ll look at the 2000s as a whole and see which players made the biggest impact on the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings over the course of the decade.